War Stories: Modern Vets Meet Ancient Texts

When Classics Professor Roberta Stewart began reading war stories with veterans, it was less a professional undertaking than a passion project she’d dreamt up during a reflective moment in her career. She had been teaching Latin, Greek, and ancient history at Dartmouth for 18 years when she decided in 2008 to embark on what she has since called “some of the most important work that I do.” She began by inviting local veterans to join her in reading one of two works by Homer,The Odyssey or The Iliad, over the course of fourteen weeks at Hanover’s Howe Library. Discussions there drew parallels between what Homer understood about war and homecoming in ancient times, and what soldiers experience today. Building on the success of this program, and on her academic course offerings which illuminate many of these same parallels, Stewart designed a new academic course recently on the topic of war stories more broadly. Wrapping up its first run in spring 2017, the course invites students to consider the experiences of war through the lens of a wide range of literary witnesses, from Homer and Vergil to more modern writers, such as Tim O’Brien and E. Maria Remarque. Along with Stewart, shepherding students through the complexity of these texts and the experiences they portray are Learning Fellows Jonathan Kong and Jason Laackmann. Like all Learning Fellows, Kong and Laackmann provide in-class facilitation for discussions and group work, helping students to unpack and understand the content of the course. But unlike other Learning Fellows, they have not experienced the course previously for themselves. Instead, they bring their lived experiences as war veterans to bear.  For the full article in the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning.